WHEELING - Nobody deserves the benefit of the doubt simply because they're exceptionally good at something. But the general expectation is that everyone will be treated with consistency no matter what field they choose.
West Liberty didn't receive either Monday night during its 101-96 road loss to Charleston, which was just the second time the Hilltoppers have come out on the wrong side of a West Virginia Conference men's basketball game in 70 tries.
Yes, West Liberty's attacking, in-your-face style lends itself to foul difficulty. But what the No. 1-ranked (not for long) team in the country had to endure against the Golden Eagles was just this side of shameful.
Having not been there, I'm certainly not going to say the Hilltoppers got hosed. Besides, I'm of the belief that you should never allow the game to be close enough where a referee can become a factor.
In case you missed it, Charleston shot 55 free throws, or the most in a WVC contest in seven years, to 24 for West Liberty. The Cougars shot 31 more freebies and made 40 total.
My issue isn't so much the discrepancy, though I do find it hard to comprehend. The problem, is the Hilltoppers didn't suddenly become a foul-prone team that warrants having four of five starters disqualified. West Liberty had a total of three players foul out in its first 14 games.
In other words, if it was a foul Monday it should have been last week, last month or even last season.
But it wasn't.
Much like every other conference in the country, the WVC, until next year when is dissolves, has changed. The tempo is faster. The athletes are bigger and stronger.
The referees? They're still the same speed and fitness-wise, and that's a problem.
The way the WLU-UC game was officiated should never happen. I can't imagine anyone, including the Golden Eagles, who I am sure are legit, wanted to see it go down that way.
After all, there's a reason those types of numbers haven't been put up in seven years. That reason is simple - they shouldn't be. If you want a free-throw competition, sign up at your local Elks Hoop Shoot.
What's the answer? Go back to the classroom and teach the game a little better. Make sure officials know there is only one way to call a basketball game.
West Liberty coach Jim Crutchfield is too nice a guy to complain about this, at least publicly, so I'll say it for him.
It shouldn't matter what gymnasium you enter. The expectation, and that's consistency, should be the same.
Unfortunately, the Golden Eagles can't count on that when they face the Hilltoppers on Feb. 11 at the ASRC. There won't be a combined 74 free throws taken that night unless the game is moved to the Wheeling Elks.
Shawn Rine can be reached via e-mail at Rine@theintelligencer.net